Average draft position (ADP) is an informative tool for gaining general understanding of how fantasy football owners currently view players. Quality ADP data providers painstakingly calculate the results by weeding out computer selections and wild outliers — we all know that guy who drafts a kicker in Round 3.
The elite ADP services allow gamers to sort by specific details, such as how many teams drafted, the scoring system, whether the leagues were casual or advanced, small or large, etc. Some even show ranges of a player’s highest and lowest placement over X amount of drafts, as well as display individual player trends.
The most important aspect of utilizing ADP data is knowing it is merely a piece of the puzzle. Fantasy owners tend to get hung up on specific numbers, which is natural considering this is a game of, well, numbers. Do not fall into this trap.
ADP data must be viewed as a general range, and just like they say in the comedy business, “Know your audience!” In fantasy, this mantra applies well to draft evaluation in relation to ADP: Understanding if the data used is based on more casual leagues or advanced in comparison to your draft is crucial. An example is if you play in a 14-teamer with complex scoring but use ADP intel from a 10-team format with standard scoring, chances are you’ll be led astray.
Another way to be deceived by data sets is to use outdated ranges. Tremendous change occurs from, say, March or May through August or the first week of September. The later in the draft season we get before drafting, naturally the data will be more robust. Like most other data sets, the bigger the better for drawing conclusions. However, it can be skewed if it doesn’t remove earlier entries. Most quality providers of ADP information purge old draft results to keep the averages fresh.
While this aspect is tougher to track, knowing where the data comes from can be immensely valuable. An illustration would be if the data included free leagues from mainstream sources, like Yahoo! Sports or CBS Sports, and mixed that data in with complex offerings from niche sites.
A general rule of thumb is for the first three rounds of ADP data, use a plus-minus range of roughly six choices. Once entering the span of Round 4 through the midway point, treat data with progressive flexibility of approximately 12-18 picks. In the second half of drafts, ADP largely becomes meaningless. Beyond about the ninth or 10th rounds, players become fliers and roster-fillers — owners become far more willing to gamble.
ADP can be especially useful in visualizing positional trends. Expansive providers color-code the results, which allows for positions to jump off the page. For example, it is particularly handy to notice early in drafts when quarterbacks and tight ends begin to come off of the board en masse. Reviewing these color-branded charts show bunches of players — look at how many running backs tend to go in the first 20 picks in standard scoring versus how many wideouts are drafted in the following 20. Also, the same can be done for comparative purposes in point-per-reception scoring.
- It’s nice to finally see ADP for QBs begin in the second half of the third round. All too often, novice gamers draft a quarterback earlier than recommended (as evidenced by Patrick Mahomes’ high selection of 1:01).
- Quarterbacks are super deep again this year, and waiting until after Round 8 can typically net Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Jared Goff, Jameis Winston, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger … all capable fantasy starters in 2019.
- After Saquon Barkley at No. 1 overall, the coin flip for No. 2 includes Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara. We’ve even seen Melvin Gordon (uh oh!), David Johnson (that’s brave) and Le’Veon Bell (braver yet) go as high as No. 1 and several times No. 2. The second pick should be one of those first three guys.
- Running backs have been quite popular in Round 3 of PPR scoring with seven chosen, on average. The reasoning here is if a team opens RB in Round 1, when eight players have their ADP registered, most of those teams return for a wideout in Round 2 and return to the backfield in the third, due to positional scarcity.
- Nine receivers have a high mark of Round 1, and only four of them average that placement. The selection of this position becomes frequent in Rounds 4-6, in which 16 players are chosen at a rate of 44.4 percent of the picks. Again, this is a byproduct of going RB twice in the first three rounds and nothing revolutionary, but it also illustrates the depth of the WR position and that gamers are comfortable with roughly 30 guys as being a WR2 or better. Some years, finding 20 guys to fill those 24 spots was a challenge.
- WRs take a breather in Rounds 7 and 8, returning with a fury in Rounds 9 and 10, making up 50 percent of the selection pool.
- Travis Kelce stands alone in Round 2 as the earliest tight end chosen. It’s a top-heavy position this year, featuring three players (Kelce, Zach Ertz, George Kittle) and then skips ahead nearly two full rounds before we see O.J. Howard come off of the board at 5:07. The volatility of this year’s TE class means fantasy owners can wait an awfully long time if one of those four is missed. Value exists down into Rounds 13 and 14, with the likes of proven vets Jimmy Graham, Kyle Rudolph, Greg Olsen and Jordan Reed hoping to squeeze out one more strong campaign.
To reiterate, ADP is a tool and not the be-all, end-all means to drafting. Understand how the utility can be applied to draft preparation, but do not give in to it being a strict blueprint to drafting. Do not wait around for targeted sleepers and fliers because of their ADP data. The average placement is, as mentioned, a general guideline and should not prohibit gamers from “reaching” a round or two in the first half of drafts or any span in the second half.
Nothing beats experience. Get out there and tinker with mock drafts. Test different formats and get a real feel for how drafts often play out.